Paul Mathis, the man behind a number of Melbourne's restaurants gave us an introduction about Henry and the Fox, saying that they do moderately priced meals (mains going at $25) to try and serve the clientele in that price bracket who want something good without going full on to fine dining. He also said that with Michael Fox at the helm (The Age Good Food Guide Young Chef of the Year 2011), he knows the food is good but needs a little help to spread the news about the restaurant. This frank statement instantly gained my respect for him. Let's face up to the reality of how tough the restaurant business is, and to gain any more publicity would hopefully help the business to succeed. Let's also note that while blogs are nowhere as influential as a traditional newspaper or magazine, they do attract a very specific audience, those who not only love food, but who also dine out at restaurants a fair bit. Yes, other food bloggers read food blogs, but it's also those food bloggers who are eager to try out new restaurants. So I think it's very honest of Paul to say that he would like to spread the word about his restaurant, which is currently a little quiet. Ultimately, the food will speak for itself and no amount of glowing review by one or a few bloggers will mask bad food and service. People will know, and with social review sites, anyone can post up their feelings. A food blogger's view is merely one of many, and yes, the meal eaten at an invited event may be especially attended to, but if a restaurant doesn't keep up that standard, they are merely doing a disservice to themselves.
On that night, I think we tried nearly every item on the menu, and I'm glad to report that most of it was good or excellent. Some items were a miss for myself personally but I would expect that of any restaurant. Starting with the entrees, while the Croquettes and Zucchini Fritters were nice, the highlights for me were the seafood entrees. The Seared Scallops with Apple and Celeriac Remoulade was an excellent dish. The dollops of raisin puree really lifted that dish. The two fish salads of Cured Kingfish with Mandarin; Confit Ocean Trout with Salted Cucumber and Radish were light and bright and very refreshing. Lastly, the Roast Moreton Bay Bug Tails with Cauliflower Puree was tasty, but far too salty for my liking. Some final entrees that we tried were a Goats Cheese and Beetroot Salad, and a Rabbit Terrine. Both dishes were very nice.
For the mains, there were alternating dishes of Pork Belly, Pan Fried Mulloway and Poached Chicken Breast. I was uttering a Tibetan prayer under my breathe that I would get the Crispy Pork Belly with fennel, dill and orange. I struck gold and got my wish. The crispy pork belly was good, with a crispy skin and soft meat. The accompanying elements also worked well. The orange helped to not only cut the fat of the meat, but to also help soften the saltiness of the dish. Even with the orange though, I found the pork too salty for my liking. The Pan Fried Mulloway with avocado, chickepeas, chorizo and red peppers was really nice. I'm not a big fan of cooked fish but this Mulloway was seared nicely so it was crispy outside but still moist inside. However, it was also too salty for my liking. Lastly, the Poached Chicken Breast with quinoa, pistachio, fig and sorrel was a solid dish, but it's hard to make poached chicken breast really stand out. I found the chicken was cooked well but obviously not as tempting as the pork belly.
As we were all almost falling over from too much food, desserts came out and everyone somehow found a second wind. As I'm sure you know, desserts are my favourite part of every meal. And boy, the desserts are sensational. The donuts were fluffy and beautiful and served simply with a chocolate sauce. The Quince, Pear, Custard, Coconut Crumble and Coconut Ice Cream was as delicious a mouthful as the length of the dish name. I was going "wow, wow, wow, nothing can beat this dish" but before I finished uttering those words, I was repeating them again and again. The next dessert of a Deconstructed Passionfruit Cheesecake, Passionfruit Mousse, Jelly, Granita, Yoghurt Sorbet was even more stunning. It was an awesome explosion of flavours but still definitely tasted like a passionfruit cheesecake. I definitely thought this was going to be dish of the night, but then an unsuspecting dark horse turned up. The Chocolate Pannacotta, Strawberry Cream, Strawberry Sorbet and Popping Candy didn't excite me much from the looks or the name. Somehow in my mind I just imagined chocolate pannacotta to taste quite strange. But was I in for a wonderful surprise. This was without a doubt the dish of the night. The flavours were sublime and mixed together so well that I kept going back for more, and more, and more and pretty much cleaned up most of the shared serving. A definite must order.
That wrapped up a very enjoyable and delicious night. For me, I felt the highlights were the seafood entrees and the desserts. They were superb and I'd definitely go back for those. I felt the mains were good but all a bit salty for my palette.
The restaurant has a really nice feel, with the seatings mixed around with tables along the sides of the restaurant as well as a central long table which overlooks the open kitchen. It has a casual feel mixed with a bit of sophistication. Obviously it is hard to judge the service, but I can say that our waitress had personality, which is cool. From what I sampled, I would recommend that you go and try out Henry and the Fox for yourself.
You can read reviews from other bloggers of the night, because even if we all ate the same food, we do have different opinions and like different things. It may give you a better feel for what you may like, or not like.
Off The Spork
Iron Chef Shellie
The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua
Popcorn and Toast
Almost Always Ravenous
The Hungry Caterpillar
Mel Hot or Not
I dined courtesy of Henry and the Fox.